Monday, May 16, 2016

The Imposters


Starring: Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, Lili Taylor, Alfred Molina, Matt McGrath, Campbell Scott

Rated R for Some Language

Few things are more painful to sit through than comedies that don't work.  Especially if it's obvious that the actors and filmmakers are trying their best.  With a movie like "Anchorman 2," it was at least clear that no one cared about the movie, least of all director Adam McKay.  Here, everyone gives it their all, but it's all for naught.  "The Imposters" simply doesn't work.

For Arthur (Tucci) and Maurice (Platt), acting is a way of life.  They act to earn food and money any way they can, and watch jealously as their hated rival Jeremy Burtom (Molina) flounders his way through "Hamlet" and becomes famous nonetheless.  After insulting him while not realizing he was in the room, Burtom chases Arthur and Maurice down to the docks, where they hide in a box...and are suddenly on a cruise ship!  Now they have to try and avoid detection by the ship's deranged First Officer (Scott) and Burtom himself.  While there, they get roped into preventing two murders and someone blowing up the ship almost by default.

With "The Imposters," Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt (who came up with the characters while attending Yale) have made a love letter to those old-fashioned screwball comedies of yesteryear.  In a day and age where all comedies seem to be dominated by everything but the screenplay, it would be nice to see one about zany characters and light-hearted fun.  But sadly, Tucci fumbles the ball, and he fumbles it quite badly.  With farce, timing and momentum are essential, and Tucci doesn't have a clue.  Some scenes go on for far too long, some are too short, and there are more than a few that never seem to want to end.  At the hands of a director who knows what he is doing, many of these jokes could work in an innocent sort of way (the R rating is totally inappropriate).

When I said that the actors give it their all, I meant it.  Stanley Tucci has a surprisingly nimble face, and Oliver Platt has some great reaction shots.  Campbell Scott puts on the most ridiculous German accent ever heard on film, going well beyond caricature, but he's not given anything funny to do or say (both he and Tucci co-directed the overrated but still charming "Big Night").  Alfred Molina is having a ball playing a man whose ego is outstrips his talent by a factor of 100.  The only ones who gain any measure of sympathy are Lily (Taylor), their one ally on the ship, and Marco (McGrath), the steward who loves her.

It isn't enough to have your heart in the right place.  You have to have the talent to back it up.

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